Partners keep Oakbrook Tobacco going
Jason Wagner still enjoys a cigar now and then though he has given up on cigarettes. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
NAME: Oakbrook Tobacco
LOCATION: 1600 W. 16th St., #T16, Oak Brook
CONTACT: (630) 571-8808; www.oakbrooktobacco.com
HOURS: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Updated: October 1, 2012 1:30AM
OAK BROOK — While the air inside certainly smells different, legitimate comparisons can be made between Oakbrook Tobacco in the Oaks of Oak Brook shopping center and many old-time barbershops and neighborhood taverns.
Customers of Oakbrook Tobacco, 1600 W. 16th St., #T16, come to purchase cigars that range in price from about $5 to $20 each, pipes and other tobacco-related products and gifts. But many also come for extended visits — they sit down and smoke a cigar while socializing and bonding with other cigar smokers.
“Ninety percent of cigar smokers can sit down and solve the world’s problems every day,” said Jason Wagner, who owns Oakbrook Tobacco with his partner, Vincent Mascio Jr.
“It’s a place to vent and to socialize,” Wagner added.
“It is a little like a barkeep or a pastor, or a barber, where people come in and talk about different things on their mind,” Mascio said. “There are not too many bastions left where guys can go and be guys.”
Mascio and Wagner are quick to point out that women are welcome at Oakbrook Tobacco, though the large majority of their customers are men.
“We used to have a lot more women hang around, but not so much anymore,” Mascio said. “I think there was more of a curiosity a while back with some women about the whole cigar thing.”
Mascio, 57, and Wagner, 37, have worked together for about 17 years. Mascio began working at Oakbrook Tobacco in 1993, and Wagner became part of the staff about two years later. The store was located in Oakbrook Center at the time, having opened there in 1976. The store remained there until 2008.
“The previous owner lost his lease and decided to retire,” Wagner said. “Vince and I worked together for a long time and decided to keep the store going here.”
Wagner said The Oaks of Oak Brook location has both advantages and disadvantages, when compared to Oakbrook Center.
“It’s definitely different here,” Wagner said. “In the mall, you get all the walk-by traffic, but being here makes this a destination store. A lot of our regulars like it here because they just park right outside and come in. They don’t have to park far away and walk through the mall.”
Wagner became an employee at Oakbrook Tobacco during the resurgence of cigar smoking’s popularity.
“It was the in thing to do at that time,” he said. “It’s gotten a lot tougher, though, with so many non-smoking laws and increased taxes for smoking products.”
While smoking is prohibited inside nearly all Illinois businesses, lighting up inside Oakbrook Tobacco is legal because of the nature of its business and because it was grandfathered in to allow for smoking, as laws became stricter.
“It’s still very tough in this business,” Mascio said. “There still are people who really enjoy a cigar and like to sit around and talk with others when they smoke. But all the anti-smoking stuff out there is crucial. It’s definitely affected our business.”